With her team looking for its fourth consecutive Maryland Christian School state championship and trailing in the second quarter, Chapelgate senior point guard Heather Landis did what she had done all season: put the team on her back.
"She had just hit four consecutive shots and was beginning to find her rhythm," Chapelgate Coach Jim Barber said.
Following an Arlington Baptist basket, Landis pushed the ball upcourt, slipping her 5-foot-3, 109-pound frame through defenders, and sailed in for a layup when she was blindsided by a defender.
"I felt my right leg buckle, and it became numb. It was really weird," Landis said. "I had never felt something like that before, and I've taken some nasty spills."
The defender had come from the left and clocked Landis midair. Landis crumpled to the ground and had to be carried off the court by her father. She came back in the third quarter but collapsed again after a few minutes, ending her high school career with an emphatic thud.
That was nearly four months ago.
And as suddenly as she had fallen, the future of Chapelgate's all-time leader in points (1,631), assists (531) and steals (330) changed from an "if" to a "when." In her last high school game before heading to Rider University on a full basketball scholarship, Landis had torn her anterior cruciate ligament -- among the grimmest injuries to athletes.
But Landis, who has been praised by her coach because "she never took a day off," has rebounded with the kind of determination that set her apart at Chapelgate. Now her coaches, past and present, are as confident as she is that she will still play in college.
A month after the injury, she underwent surgery to repair the ligament, then began grueling rehabilitation. She worked two hours a day, every other day, to regain strength in her leg. "My rehab consisted of riding a bike and doing different weight workouts," she said. "When I first started, I couldn't even get the pedal of the bike to go all the way around."
Within a few weeks, she was able to ride normally. She has since progressed to walking on a treadmill and to jogging. Soon she had moved to the rehab center's parking lot, working on her defensive slide and running figure eights.
"Because of her work ethic and determination, I have zero doubt that she'll fully recover and become a more complete player," Barber said.
Landis fully expects that to happen in time to hit the court for her new team this winter.
"I think if I had gotten injured closer to the school year, it would have been more of an issue," she said. "But I think I'll have plenty of time to get back into shape."
Rider assistant women's coach Sharon Giddins, who recruited Landis, has been keeping up to date on Landis's progress.
"Heather knows her limitations," Giddins said. "She's eager to play and has even strapped on her brace and shot some baskets. As of right now, we're not really concerned [that her injury will affect her play]."
Giddins's optimistic view bodes well for Landis, because her scholarship is contingent upon her ability to play. She left for campus a week ago to begin summer classes and resume rehabilitation.
Even with all the pressure of getting back to full strength -- not to mention the normal stresses of being a freshman in college -- Landis was as calm as ever, perhaps even stoic, as she discussed her goals for the upcoming year. "I just want to help out the team in any way I can," she said. "I'm just going to do whatever the coach wants me to do."